Special session fails to produce bonding bill as Senate Republicans walk away
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, June 26, 2020
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
SAINT PAUL — State lawmakers came back to the Capitol for a special session beginning June 12. Eight days later, the legislature adjourned without passing key legislation urged by the state’s labor movement, including a jobs bill left undone from the regular session and a new package of police accountability reforms proposed in the wake of the George Floyd murder by Minneapolis police.
The leaders of both the DFL-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate cast blame on the other party for failing to reach agreements and advance legislation.
But it was the Senate which insisted on a firm adjournment date of June 19.
At a media availability at 12 noon that day, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) expressed her willingness to continue the special session. “If they would just stay a few more days, we could get something done… This work is too important to walk away from right now.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) countered: “We’re not days away from some of the requests the House wanted; we are a session away. There’s a lot of desire the House has, and I understand why, but I thought that in a special session that we would be able to do some significant things.”
The Minnesota AFL-CIO commented on Facebook: “We are deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans have decided to adjourn the legislature without agreement on an infrastructure bonding bill or police accountability and reform.”
For the special session, the legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous Caucus had proposed a significant package of police accountability reforms after the massive protests which rocked the Twin Cities in response to George Floyd’s death. The package passed the House but the Senate majority offered a much more modest alternative that failed to address the concerns of the POCI bills.
In the end, no new police reforms were enacted — a result which drew national media attention.
“The people of Minnesota should be deeply disappointed,” commented Governor Tim Walz. “This was a failure to move. A failure to engage. Those tens of thousands of Minnesotans who raised their voice were not telling us to think small.”
Building Trades unions expressed deep frustration with the legislature’s failure to pass a bonding bill.
“Adjourning the special session without passing an infrastructure bill is unacceptable. This is a devastating outcome for working Minnesotans,” commented Joel Smith, president and business manager of Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota.
“We are disappointed Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and the Senate Republican Caucus unnecessarily chose to end without getting the job done,” Smith said. “We are profoundly disgusted by Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and the House Republican Caucus for recklessly preventing the creation of 45,000 construction jobs in the last 13 months — at a critical time when we need to meet the need for infrastructure, keep Minnesotans working and stimulate our economy.”
Going in to the special session, the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council outlined the need for passing a bonding bill: “There are currently proposals for over $2 billion in unmet needs for construction across our state. This level of economic investment can put thousands of Minnesotans to work. A balanced approach to funding building, water and road infrastructure will allow the state to maximize its bonding power to provide on-going economic stimulus to the areas of our state that will need it the most.”
“A strong state bonding package… can serve as part of a COVID-19 and community recovery plan for Minnesota,” the State Building Trades Council urged.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota had hoped to see the special session pass a temporary 15 percent COVID emergency pay increase for personal care attendants. The measure was included in a COVID relief bill passed by the House 77-55, with two Republicans voting with the Democratic majority. But the Senate did not act.
Saturday, June 20, “the Senate adjourned at 6:05 a.m., choosing to end the special session without getting anything done on bonding, police reform, or other major issues of importance to working Minnesotans,” reported Melissa Hysing, legislative director for the Minnesota AFL-CIO.